How to Melt Chocolate in a (Homemade!) Double Boiler
on Oct 25, 2023
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Melting chocolate is a dangerous game. With this homemade double boiler trick, it'll get a little easier. (No fancy pan needed!)
Melting chocolate is a dangerous game. When you’re making brownies or hot cocoa, a recipe might state that the chocolate needs to be melted, but it’s not so straightforward a direction. Chocolate is temperamental, and melting it can be nerve-wracking, no matter whether you use chocolate chips or a chocolate bar.
Since chocolate can scorch easily unless monitored properly, most recipes that call for melting chocolate will call for a piece of cookware called a double boiler or sometimes a double pan. This allows the chocolate to melt more gently over diffused heat, which allows it to melt more evenly. Chocolate melted over direct heat is very difficult to get smooth and creamy. Having the chocolate suspended over hot water allows the chocolate to melt slowly and evenly.
But most of us don’t have this space-hogging double boiler, which isn’t used for a whole lot of things other than melting chocolate. Luckily, you can make your own double boiler at home with just a saucepot and a heatproof bowl. Once you’ve pulled that together, you’ll consistently be able to melt chocolate so that it becomes silky and smooth, not clumpy, grainy, or seized up.
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How to Melt Chocolate in a (Homemade!) Double Boiler: With a couple of easily available kitchen items, you’ll consistently be able to melt chocolate down so that it becomes silky and smooth.Tweet This
Melting Various Types of Chocolate
Depending on what kind of chocolate your recipe calls for, you can melt any kind of chocolate: melting white chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark, bittersweet, or unsweetened chocolate, all work with the double boiler method.
If you use chocolate chips, try to use ones without added ingredients. Extra ingredients are often added to chocolate chips to stabilize them and may affect their ability to melt in a smooth and creamy way.
While chocolate chips can be a tempting option, the best choice for silky smooth chocolate is pure chocolate bars chopped very finely before adding it to the double boiler. The finer the chocolate is chopped, the faster it will melt and the smoother your melted chocolate will be.
How to Create a Stovetop Double Boiler for Chocolate
- Find a pot and a bowl that fit together: Find a pot that is wide enough to hold a metal or glass bowl nesting in the opening, with the bottom suspended a few inches above the bottom of the pan. You want the bowl to be large enough to extend up and beyond the top of the pot so you can move it easily.
- Add water to the pot: Fill the pot with water, but not high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. Rest the bowl with the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in the top of the pan, again making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
- Simmer: Bring the water to a simmer, but don’t let it boil. If the water boils, it can cause droplets of water to enter the chocolate — which can either make it seize up or become gritty.
- Stir: Use a rubber or silicone spatula, scraping the bottom and side of the pan until the chocolate is just melted.
- Carefully remove bowl: Remove the bowl from the double boiler, watching that the steam doesn’t billow out and burn you. Remove the pan from the heat. Use the chocolate as directed in the recipe.
Double Boiler vs. Microwave
Is it better to melt chocolate in a microwave or a double boiler? Well, there are pros and cons to both methods.
In a double boiler, you have more control because you’re watching the chocolate melt. But there are more things that can go wrong — your water can get too hot, you risk some moisture entering the melting chocolate, etc. In a microwave, you have a little less control, but some people find it more consistent. It’s really a matter of preference.
If you do use a microwave, make sure to only put your chocolate in for 30 seconds at a time. Between each burst of heat, stir your chocolate to see how much longer it needs. As it starts to melt, reduce the time to 15-second bursts between stirring. This will minimize your chances of accidental scorching.
Adding Butter or Oil to Melted Chocolate
Butter and oil can be used to add more fat to melted chocolate. Added fat changes the consistency of melted chocolate, thinning out the chocolate, making it shinier, and lowering its hardening temp. You might want to add fat to your chocolate if you’re using the melted chocolate in a sauce or trying to resuscitate seized-up chocolate.
When adding butter or oil, make sure you let it thaw out first — adding cold ingredients to melted chocolate can make it seize up further!
Pro Cooking Tips
- White chocolate and milk chocolate melt more quickly than darker chocolate varieties. If you’re working with lighter chocolate, know that it will take less time to melt down — and it will scorch more easily! Pay extra attention.
- Do not let the bottom of your bowl touch the simmering water! Your double boiler will not melt chocolate at an even pace if some of the bowl is submerged.
- If water or moisture gets into your chocolate at any point in the melting process, it will cause the chocolate to seize up, making it less smooth and more chunky in its final form. If your chocolate is seizing, don’t keep cooking it since it can still burn in this form.
If you’re using chocolate chips, they might contain additives that help the chips keep their shape when baking. This will reasonably make it harder for them to melt down.
Yes, you absolutely can. When you start scorching your chocolate, it’ll let you know. The texture will change from thin and spreadable to thick and sludge-like. You’ll be able to smell that the chocolate is burning. At that point, it’s best to throw out the chocolate and start over.
There are a few things that might have gone wrong here. First, your chocolate might have been exposed to water. Maybe your hands were wet when you picked it up to put in the double boiler, or the spatula you used to stir it had recently been washed. Water makes chocolate seize up, which makes it thick and hard to stir. On the other hand, you might have just burnt it!
It is possible! Chocolate seizes up when it is exposed to moisture, so to counteract that, you can either add butter or oil to fatten up the chocolate. Or, spoon your seized chocolate onto parchment paper, plop it in the fridge, and wait a few days for it to dry out before trying again.
Recipes Using Melted Chocolate
Melted Chocolate Recipes
- Chocolate Ganache
- Best Homemade Hot Chocolate
- Chocolate Covered Caramel Matzoh
- S’mores Haystack Cookies
- Fudgy Chocolate Cake
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How to Melt Chocolate in a Double Boiler
- Chocolate (chips or chopped chocolate)
- Water (as needed for pot)
- Find a pot that is wide enough to hold a metal or glass bowl nesting in the opening, with the bottom suspended a few inches above the bottom of the pan. You want the bowl to be large enough to extend up and beyond the top of the pot so you can move it easily.
- Fill the pan with water, not high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. Rest the bowl with the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in the top of the pan, again making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
- Bring the water to a simmer, but don’t let it boil, which will cause droplets of water to enter the chocolate and may make it seize up or become gritty.
- Stir, preferably with a rubber or silicone spatula, scraping the bottom and side of the pan, until the chocolate is just melted.
- Remove the bowl from the double boiler, watching that the steam doesn’t billow out and burn you. Remove the pan from the heat. Use the chocolate as directed in the recipe.